Pisgah Loop Scenic Byway
Spectacular mountain views of North Carolina's Linville Gorge Wilderness Area await the adventurous traveler on the Pisgah Loop Scenic Byway. Burke County and Pisgah National Forest are host to a fifty mile circle of natural beauty as well as abundant recreational offerings. Seasoned travelers in the Blue Ridge Mountains are familiar with how curvy and steep roads can be; however, the novice should stay alert to the ever changing roadway. As part of these roads are gravel surfaces a four wheel drive vehicle is recommended; however, rvs and buses are not. Keep in mind this is a wilderness area with no modern conveniences so have your vehicle fueled up along with food and water provisions on board.
The loop begins north of Morganton at NC Hwy 181 and Fish Hatchery Road. Take NC Hwy 181 north for seventeen miles alongside Steele Creek. Visitors and locals enjoy this area for the water activities and several camping opportunities. Brown Mountain Overlook to the right is a place of intrigue and mystery. Reports of unexplained colored lights have been recorded as early as 1771. The Cherokee Indians have spoke of them since 1200 when a battle between the Cherokee and Catawba tribes took place. The Cherokee believe the lights to be wives and girlfriends searching for their dead warriors. The subject of two government studies and countless scientific research, the Brown Mountain Lights remain a mystery today. As the road climbs through Pisgah Forest, the Upper Creek Falls Trail access can be found on the right.
Once reaching the Jonas Ridge Community, take a left onto NC Hwy 183. This is a short section that runs parallel to the Blue Ridge Parkway. Notice on the right a rare mountain wetland before you cross over the Linville River prior to its descent into Linville Gorge.
The byway takes a left on Old NC Hwy 105. The next fifteen miles are mostly gravel surfaces with 4x4 vehicles recommended. Only a short distance and you reach the parking area for Linville Falls revealing a .4 mile hike to the falls or enjoy the picnic tables provided. Continue to find the log cabin information center on the right. The center is open on weekends from May through October with restrooms and trail information available. As you wind your way upward, view the mountain ranges from both sides of the road. Several parking areas for access to the trails are along this stretch.
Follow the signs to Wiseman's View parking area. Some have said Wiseman's View is the grand canyon of the east and I think you will agree. A short handicap accessible walk brings you to a breathtaking and unsurpassed view of Linville Gorge. Experience up close views of Table Rock and Hawksbill mountains as you listen to the river rushing hundreds of feet below.
Although leaving Wiseman's View may be difficult, the opportunity for more spectacular views are only minutes down the road. The forest gives way to panoramic views of Lake James and the Catawba River Valley below. This is a great place to watch for the Peregrine Falcon and other bird species.
Upon reaching NC Hwy 126, make a left and travel five miles to the Linville Access Area of Lake James. This area is the site of the fort battle and canoe scenes from the movie "Last of the Mohicans". The Linville River exits the gorge and spills into Lake James at this point. The byway makes a left onto Fish Hatchery Road. Travelers can access Table Rock for hiking and climbing on Table Rock Road or continue on to visit the Table Rock Fish Hatchery operated by the NC Wildlife Resources Commission since 1946. The public can tour the facility and use the picnic grounds weekdays from 8am-4pm. Group tours are available if you call in advance 828-437-3977.
Reaching NC Hwy 181 you have made the Pisgah Loop Scenic Byway. The byway covers forty-seven miles with a suggested travel time of 2.5 hours; however, for sightseeing and visits you should allow for four to eight hours to fully experience all that these roads in western North Carolina have to offer.